Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

some are wont to brand, though improperly, as atheism. We mean Pantheism ; a system, which identifies God with his works ; which supposes every atom that exists not only to be pervaded by his presence, but to be a manifestation of Himself; which, in fine, blends God and nature, in the vast conception of an infinite, all-pervading, all-embracing, everywhere-working Intelligence. Such are the forms which the religious principle has assumed in Germany, where, had it been destructible, bigotry and tyranny would have long since destroyed it; where it has been left to struggle into ever new and nobler life, by its own insurmountable elasticity, and unconquerable energy.

In this country infidelity has, for many years, been disseminating its poison, but, until very recently, under the specious name of deism; and to that disguise it has owed most of its converts. Wherever it has assumed the genuine garb of sheer, blank atheism, it has stemmed but for a short period the torrent of public feeling. Owen attempted, in vain, to establish his republic of atheists, and returned to his native country, baffled and disappointed. The female Quixote in the cause of infidelity has, indeed, made many converts, but chiefly among those in whom profligacy and sensuality had already obliterated every finer feeling and more generous sentiment of their natures. An aged apostate and blasphemer has recently run a successful race in this city; but his career was brief. Many, who approved and admired, while he professed to vindicate the God of Nature from the aspersions of priestcraft, have been disgusted since he assumed atheistical ground; have found too strong a testimony within against the fool who saith “ There is no God.”

Time would fail us to trace the history of infidelity any farther. Suffice it to say, that atheism, in every age and land where it has appeared, has had an exceedingly brief reign, which has always been followed by a violent reaction, by a convulsive clinging to religious faith in all its forms, however wild or absurd. On the other hand, no form of religious belief has ever been found too irrational or unnatural to obtain disciples, to take deep root, and gain a permanent influence. Facts like these prove, incontestibly, that man is, by nature, a religious being; that a craving for objects of religious belief and worship is a no less essential element of his spiritual nature, than is the appetite for food, of his animal constitution ; and that the spiritual, like the physical craving, is so intense as to glut itself on uncongenial and unwholesome nutriment, rather than to remain unnourished.

But it may be asked, Of what avail is this religious principle, if it be liable to be palpably misguided, and grossly abused, if it serve as a basis for all the wild and dark forms of superstition, fanaticism, and bigotry? We answer, that every propensity and faculty of our nature may be equally misguided and abused. This is the case with our animal instincts, with reason, with benevolence, with all those attributes that constitute the glory of our intellectual and moral natures. Every endowment that we have from God needs to be instructed, quickened, and guided by Himself, in order to be truly and permanently valuable; and He has established a system of means, by which all our endowments are ultimately to be educated, sanctified, and brought into entire accordance with His will. The religious principle, we confess, has often had absurdity and folly engrafted upon it; but it was designed to be, is daily becoming more and more generally, and will, at last, be universally, a medium of pure light and unadulterated truth.

The religious principle, as modified by education, might be compared to the idea of extended space, which, if it cannot be strictly termed an innate idea, results so necessarily from our position in space as to be coëval with our earliest mental operations. We all spontaneously conceive of an immeasurable extent beyond and above the field of our vision. But this unseen space men people variously, according to their knowledge or their ignorance. With some, it is a region of absurd fable, fairy land. Others form opinions strangely wide of the truth, concerning the soil, climate, and inhabitants of distant countries, and the nature of the heavenly bodies. Others, again, have been enlightened by the sciences of geography and astronomy; and, consequently, form right ideas of the space that lies beyond and above them. In like manner, the religious principle gives us a sense of a power above, and a sphere beyond our own, of higher and purer existences, of infinity and eternity; and fastens in our minds a strong conviction of the reality of a spiritual world. But it does not furnish us the statistics of that world; it leaves us to people it according to our respective tastes, and our several degrees of knowledge. With some, it is a land of shadows; with others, full of the chimeras of a fantastic imagination ; — with some, cantoned out among "gods many, and lords many;" with others, under the government of a single potentate; -- with some, a scene of ease; with others, of activity ; -- with some, a sensual, with others, an in

a ence,

tellectual paradise. All are fully conscious of the existence of this unseen world; but none can venture to pronounce with certainty anything with regard to it, unless on the authority of some one who has explored and revealed it. Many false accounts are published concerning it, by those who pretend to have witnessed or heard its mysteries, just as spurious narratives of voyages and travels have been written concerning every unknown region of the globe. But, like the visible heavens and earth, the unseen spirit-land has its authentic and accurate geography and astronomy. These are furnished us in the Bible; and those, who thence derive their notions of truth, have the religious principle within them fully informed and infallibly guided.

The revelation of the spiritual world was not, however, made at once to mankind, but was gradually unfolded from age to age, as has been the case with every department of human sci

God first made himself known to the fathers of our race as the supreme luminary of that unseen heaven of which they were conscious, as the sole object of that worship which the voice within prompted them to pay. And, from time to time, He sent

messenger from his invisible presence, to talk with the patriarch at the door of his tent, to warn him of danger, and to guide him in safety. But, as yet, there was no definite process of instruction; only shadowy glimpses of things unseen were vouchsafed. Under Moses a regular system of tuition commenced. The Jews, however, were not sufficiently capable of abstract thought to contemplate spiritual truth, except through material images. God, therefore, selected those objects of nature and art which seemed best fitted for the purpose, traced upon them the pictures of things invisible and eternal, and gave them to the Jews in the Mosaic ritual ; and this on the same principle, on which the judicious father, before his child is old enough to use a book, teaches him letters by writing them on his toys. With Jesus of Nazareth a clearer dispensation dawned. It was no longer necessary to instruct man by pictures and enigmas. We, therefore, have, in the Gospel, literal

, distinct, and sufficiently ample views of the world above and beyond us.

We might divide the manifestations of the religious principle among men into two classes ; namely, those in which it has developed itself, and those in which God has clothed it. The former are noble, vast, and worthy of regard and reverence; the latter are transcendently pure and lovely, - are “perfect, even as God is perfect.” The former leave numerous doubts unsettled, numerous questions unanswered; the latter answer every candid inquiry, settle every reasonable doubt. Wherever the latter have been made known, the religious principle has adopted them, as best satisfying its cravings. This was the case with Judaism, which, though it imposed a heavy burden, yet had its proselytes from every nation under heaven. And the reason why Christianity, unseconded by an arm of flesh, has made and is making rapid progress all the world over, is that it is congenial, satisfactory. It is a religion inspired by the Author of the human soul, and must, therefore, be suited to its necessities and desires.

On this ground would we base our confidence in the permanence and final supremacy of Christianity. Did it not have its foundation in human nature, when we see discord within the Christian camp, and hear the shout of anticipated triumph from foes without, we should fear that the word of prophecy was unsure, that the era of Zion's glory had passed, that the star of Solyma was already on the wane, and soon to be quenched in night. But no. The Gospel and man are made for each other; and must, therefore, together pass down the current of time, and together be merged in the ocean of eternity;

“ And this tempestuous state of human things
Is merely as the working of a sea
Before a calm, that rocks itself to rest.”

A. P. P.

ART. VI. — 1. The Life of Cardinal Cheverus, Archbishop

of Bordeaux, and formerly Bishop of Boston, in Massachusetts. From the French of J. Huen-Dubourg, Priest, and late Professor of Theology. Boston: James Munroe

and Company. 1839. 12mo. pp. 372 and xxiv. 2. Life of the Cardinal de Cheverus, Archbishop of Bordeaux. By the

Rev. J. Huen Doubourg, Er-Professor of Theology. Translated from the French by Robert M. Walsh. Philadelphia : Hooker and Claxton. 1839. 12mo.

pp.

280. This work is both curious and valuable as a specimen of Popish credulity and French exaggeration. In the absence of

erus.

anything better it is also valuable as the life of Cardinal Chev

He must be a novice indeed who is led astray by its erroneous statements. The character of Cheverus, so chaste, simple, unassuming, true, stands out distinct from all the flummery that is thrown round it. We took up the work with no knowledge of its subject beyond what every one must have; and, in spite of its tinsel and false coloring, it has given to us a picture of simplicity, self-sacrifice, humility, and Christian love, such as it has seldom been our privilege to receive. No one can be deceived by its misstatements. They are like the plaster and blankets with which some clumsy artist might hope to improve the appearance of an ancient statue. They may offend and provoke us; but we cannot mistake them for a part of the original work, of which the minutest details have an individuality and finish that cannot be counterfeited.

In the present instance we do not think it worth our while to burthen our columns with an exposure of errors. They bear about with them their own condemnation. Who does not see, at once,

that a great portion of what relates to the Indians is entirely Frenchified, and no more a part of authentic history than the story of Paul and Virginia ? So with respect to the scene described (p. 103), where it is said, that a whole audience were so moved by the eloquence of the bishop, that, when he took the crucifix, - the Protestants, forgetting their sharp controversy, kissed the cross of the Savior, with tears and affection.” All this might have been done by one or two Protestants of a peculiarly sympathetic temperament, at the Catholic church; but no one would think of attributing it to a whole congregation._Of the same character are most of the general eulogiums. The extravagance of the language takes away our confidence. The fault of the author is one which he has in common with most of the travellers who have been among us. A single fact, remarkable for its singularity, is made the basis of a general assertion. All that we have to do is, by a well known rule of mathematics, to reduce the general assertion to its original dimensions. Who is deceived by the apparent greatness of a bladder; or by swollen accounts like this ? *" He

* Not to attribute too large a share of blame to the author of this “Life,” it should be observed that many of the most questionable statements contained in his book appear to have been derived from materials furnished him from Boston. For instance, the statement quoted above VOL. XXVI. - 30 S. VOL. VIII. NO. I.

12

« AnteriorContinuar »